Plato’s account of Atlantis; “rocks of white, black and red were extracted from the hills and used to construct a great island city” holds a striking resemblance to the whitewashed abodes, cobalt-domed churches, and the black- and red-sand beaches which mark the isle of Santorini, an alluring Mediterranean oasis mired in mythology. A theory in which some believe the Caldera Island may have been one of the possible locations of the fabled island of Atlantis.
Another legend has it, Euphemus, son of Poseidon created the island following a dream where he made love to a nymph. Certainly explaining the island’s tendency of a romantic nature; one does not find a more beautiful view of the Mediterranean sea than this Greek island, even the sunsets are the most photographed in the world.
From the picturesque town of Oía to the ancient dwellings of Fira, here are my favourite hotels to choose from.
For Modernity: Grace Hotel
Located in Imerovigli village, close to Fira, the hotel is scattered over seven levels on the edge of the caldera. Minimalist and modern, the staff are camouflaged in white; from the tiny reception area with a panoramic terrace, endless flights of steps lead down to rooms on different levels and to the lagoon-like infinity pool.
There are 20 rooms and suites and one very VIP villa. All, except Deluxe rooms, have plunge pools or whirlpool baths. Walls are powder white with beige and caramel sofas, and there’s lots of elegant detail: marble lamps, Cycladic statues, king-sized Coco-Mat beds; summer and winter bathrobes (summer ones are like kimonos); docking stations; iPads; plenty of plug sockets (including UK); chocolates and local liqueur on arrival.
The hotel is keen on souvenirs and includes adorable touches to make your stay memorable – on arrival, guests have their photo taken with a Polaroid camera while a small wooden ‘memory box’ can be found in your room. The latter is full of trinkets, including a glass jar to collect the white, black or red sands of Santorini beaches, should you wish to visit (and you should).
Daily free pilates and yoga classes are held in the resort’s second-floor studio, by the boutique fitness room. Souvenir-seekers should steer themselves towards the resort’s concept store, which sells artwork, floaty garments by super-cool Greek designers Zeus + Dione, and crafty trinkets from the Cycladic Art Museum. Local artwork is displayed in the champagne lounge too. Make your stay even more luxurious with the hotel’s Bespoke by Grace service, which allows guests to customize their stay with a pillow menu, choice of fragrances and bath products, bespoke in-room cocktail kit and a personal fitness kit.
On request, hotel staff can arrange tailored experiences, including a private vineyard tour, excursion with a professional photographer, catamaran hire for two, or a 90-minute tour of Akrotiri (the ‘Minoan Pompeii’) archaeological site, followed by a seafood lunch. Pop across to Skaros Rock, the island’s former capital, to see the church and fortress remains. It’s particularly spectacular at sunset.
For Traditionalism: Ikies Hotel
Ikies Traditional Houses is a special type of boutique hotel; a five-star complex of dug-out cave houses, it’s elegant design comprises of honeymoon suites, maisonettes, and studios located at the edge and facing the picturesque village of Oia, which guests can watch as the sun sets (or rises if you’re that way inclined) on the private terrace. The staff are incredibly helpful – attentive but inconspicuous, which only adds to the privacy of the hotel.
The minimalist troglodytic interiors include 11 dwellings or fisherman’s warehouses which have been artfully converted into delightful rooms descending in tiers at the caldera’s edge, each one with its own distinctive personality and name. We were lucky enough to stay in the Captain’s House – one of the luxury suites with a private hot tub which can be accessed through the large bedroom windows, looking onto a secluded terrace where breakfast or room service is served. The living room has two comfortable traditional sofas, which can be turned into single beds if needs be, and a dining table. There is a lot of unused space through the suite’s curved interior which I personally think could have been used to build a bigger bathroom, but apart from that – a complete and utter delight to stay.
Ikies is a handy walking distance to Oia’s best dining and attractions while remaining tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist core, which is great if you fancy an evening in. While there’s a medium-sized plunge-pool at the lowest terrace, overlooking the Caldera and the town which makes for fun photo opportunities, only light snacks and drinks are served to the pool area (or your room), but a continental breakfast is brought to your room terrace. The staff are also happy to make quality restaurant recommendations, we even ordered a takeout one evening to sit and watch the sunset.
For Ultimate Luxury: Erosantorini
Out of the hundreds of Santorini hotels, none come quite as impressive as this private estate, a few minutes from Fira. Dangling on the edge of the caldera, Erosantorini is equipped with a concierge, chef, trainer, and masseur to cater to your every need. Not to mention the secluded setting (two-acre plot of land) offers a pool terrace with a three-tiered infinity pool, dotted with beanbags and daybeds to sink into, a projector and screen for ‘movie nights’, while a hidden staircase leads to an underground cigar and wine cellar So. Much. Drama.
The design has a modern take on luxury, with a monochrome palette and cubist structures that give way to vernacular architecture, Italian designer Paola Navone has kitted out the property with her bold yet energetic style: floating fireplaces, antique mirrors, and heated flooring which exude a cosy bohemian vibe. The five independent suites are located on three levels, with 180-degree views of the Aegean and a private jacuzzi which is perfect for a spot of skinny-dipping. The black dry-stone walls are juxtaposed by the white buildings which house private backyards at the rear of the property with an outdoor shower, while most feature a double bed, an outdoor living area, and an indoor shower, apart from the Two-Floor Suite, which plays host to a cave-style bathtub indoors.
As for the dining options, Chef Dimitris Panagiotopoulos honed his skills at Milos and two-Michelin-starred Vissani. Meals are served on a huge communal oak table by the barbeque and outdoor oven, so you can always see what’s cooking. The daily-changing menu, designed around guests’ tastes, showcases the local and seasonal, one stand-out dish was the grilled fish drizzled with house-made olive oil, served after octopus and grilled squid of course.
A cross between a five-star hotel and a fully-staffed villa, guests can book out the entire place and pretend like it’s your own for four nights minimum where all meals, drinks, personal training, and massages are included.